A chilling incident has come to light about how an innocent woman, who hailed from West Bengal, was sacrificed by a group of 12 persons, which included a sadhu from Madhya Pradesh to please Goddess Kamakhya at the Kamakhya temple, on the night of June 18, 2019.
The unsuspecting 64-year-old victim, Santi Shaw, was on a visit to the Kamakhya Temple along with one sadhu and two other women, to attend the Ambubachi Mela, when she was killed.
Four years after the incident, Guwahati Police cracked the case and arrested five persons from various places in Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in connection with the incident. The horrific incident had occurred near Joy Durga Mandir of Kamakhya on the intervening night of June 18 and 19, 2019.
Santi Shaw, the wife of late Santu Shaw, a resident of Tatipara (Barkandashpara) in Hooghly district of West Bengal, had gone to Guwahati to participate in the Ambubachi Mela, along with one sadhu and two other women from West Bengal.
Pradeep Pathak, a resident of Mathura in UP, had contacted the sadhu from West Bengal and planned to carry out the human sacrifice for Goddess Kamakhya and they decided on Santi Shaw as the one who would be sacrificed. Accordingly, the group first performed the Kapali Puja at Bhootnath, where they partaked of alcohol. The victim was plied with alcohol to get her completely drunk. The victim was wearing a saffron-coloured saree at Bhootnath.
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After the puja was completed, the entire group left for Kamakhya and first visited the cremation ground there to offer puja. Then they visited the Joy Durga Mandir at Kamakhya and conducted another puja there. More alcohol was consumed and everyone was in a drunken state.
During the puja at the Joy Durga Mandir, the victim was made to change into a white-coloured saree. When the victim was completely drunk and not in her senses, the accused persons spread a blanket on the steps of Joy Durga mandir and made the victim lie down on it. After which, a few of them held her head, hands and legs and then beheaded her with a dao in the name of human sacrifice to please Maa Kamakhya.
After they had committed the heinous crime, they put the victim’s head in a bag and disposed it off in the Brahmaputra and left.
On June 19, 2019, at about 5.30 pm, the Kamakhya Police Outpost received information that one beheaded body of an unknown woman was found at Kamakhya near Joy Durga Mandir. The police found the body covered with a blanket on the stairs of Joy Durga Mandir and the head of the deceased was missing.
In this connection, a suo-moto case was registered in Jalukbari police station. “In the initial stages, as the identity of the deceased was a mystery, no further clue could be found,” said Diganta Barah, commissioner of police, Guwahati.
On July 28, 2019, the victim’s son, Suresh Shaw of Tatipara (Borkandaspara), which comes under Dankuni police station in Hooghly district of West Bengal, visited the Jalukbari police station after he learnt in the media that a headless body of a woman was recovered. His mother Santi Shaw had been missing since she had left home for Kamakhya for the Ambubachi Mela in June 2019.
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He identified the victim from her clothing and marks on her body like a tattoo etc. Though the deceased was identified, no further clue or evidence could be gathered during the investigation. The case was pending for lack of any suspects, said Barah. However, the case was recently reviewed and a special team was entrusted to carry out further investigation to identify the accused involved in the offence.
The hunt begins
The special team analysed the technical evidence collected earlier and based on the clues they had collected, they went to Cooch Behar and searched the house of Kailash Barman, a resident of Bara Gadaikhora in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal on March 18. They found the victim’s mobile and her clothes, ID proof (Aadhar card) etc.
According to the Guwahati police commissioner, after Kailash Barman was interrogated, it came to light that the victim’s belongings were left behind at their home in a bag by a Baba Ji, also known as Mata Prasad Pandey (50), a resident of Mal Cachar in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh in June 2019.
The police commissioner said that Kailash Barman confessed that Mata Prasad Pandey used to regularly visit their village in the months of June-July for 7-8 years. In 2019, Babaji visited his house and left the victim’s belongings claiming that the bag contained his belongings which he would collect later.
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On further investigation, Mata Prasad Pandey, also known as Mateswari Giri was picked up from his home in Jabalpur on March 25. Based on his statement and on other technical evidence the police had, Suresh Paswan (56), a resident of Jironi Path, Durga Saraovar hillside was arrested. Further, Pradeep Pathak from Mathura district of UP was also arrested from his residence on April 1.
Two other persons Kanu Acharjee (62), living in Fatasil Ambari in Guwahati and Bhaiyaram Maoriya from Dibanganj in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh (presently living in Bhootnath) were also arrested.
According to the police commissioner, further investigation is on to identify other accused persons involved in the heinous crime and to arrest them.
“The Kapali/Kaal Bhairav/ Shaanti puja was performed in Bhootnath and was sponsored by Pradeep Pathak of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh and he had paid ₹10,000 to all the persons, who were part of the puja. The puja was held in the name of the younger brother of Pradeep Pathak, who was a Naga sadhu during his lifetime and had expired 11 years ago on the same date of the incident on June 18, 2008,” Barah said.
“Pradeep Pathak was accompanied by another sadhu, who is yet to be identified and arrested, and they planned to carry out the human sacrifice before Goddess Kamakhya and accordingly planned in advance and also purchased a Dao earlier in the day, on which they had committed the crime. They also identified the place in advance where the sacrifice would be carried out,” he added.